Teaching


K. L. Cook is Associate Professor of English at Iowa State University, where he teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Environment Program. He is also a member of the graduate faculty of Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing Program. He served for several years as Co-coordinator of the Southwest Writers’ Series and as the Associate Dean of academic affairs and Chair of the Arts & Letters Program at Prescott College, where he was a Professor of Creative Writing and Literature. He has taught, as a visiting writer and professor, at St. Lawrence University, College of Charleston, Wichita State University's MFA Program, University of Oklahoma’s OSLEP Program, and Our Lady of the Lake University.

About teaching, Cook says, “I love teaching. It's a privilege to help students discover literature and to encourage them to develop the craft, vision, and generosity of spirit it takes to write their own stories. I'm amazed by the work students do. It serves as inspiration for my own writing.”

He is available for readings, book signings, workshops, book festivals, panels, conferences, and book club meetings. Contact him, his publisher, or agent for details.


Workshops by K. L. Cook:

Linked Stories, Short Story Cycles, Novels-in-Stories
Short story cycles, linked stories, novels-in-stories: what is this form? It may seem like short story cycles are a contemporary publishing fad, particularly suited to the young MFA fiction writer who is trying to make the leap from writing short fiction to novels. However, the story cycle’s practitioners include Boccaccio, Chaucer, Turgenev, Joyce, Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Steinbeck. In the last half of the twentieth century, the form accounts for some of the best work of John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Tim O’Brien, Louise Erdrich, Alice Munro, and Robert Olen Butler. In this workshop, we will look at the artistic (and publishing) advantages and disadvantages of the form, examine its relationship to both the story and the novel, and explore the different ways to unify a collection of stories so that the whole equals more than the sum of its parts. The last half of the class will focus on exercises that encourage students to think about different ways to organize and link their stories, as well as a mini-workshop of student story cycle proposals. Learn more about linked stories.

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Forms of Fiction
The goal of this seminar is to develop students’ fiction writing skills by familiarizing them with a variety of traditional, modern, and post-modern narrative forms and techniques. We will do this by examining short excerpts and through writing exercises. We will discuss and experiment with the picaresque, the epic, symbolic allegory, old-fashioned omniscience, as well as radical departures such as Fielding’s mock-epic, Sterne’s metafiction, Richardson’s epistolary strategies, and Defoe’s false documents. Modernist forms and techniques will include Conrad’s doppelganger, Poe’s psychological mysteries, Henry James’s central intelligence and dramatic method, Chekhov’s and Joyce’s epiphanies, Hemingway’s minimalism, as well as Woolf’s and Faulkner’s experiments in consciousness. Post-modern techniques will include Kafka’s surrealism, Nabokov’s formal riddles, Barthelme’s and Barth’s metafiction, Carver’s neo-minimalism, South American magical realism, Capote’s nonfiction novel and Doctorow’s fictional nonfiction. This class is meant to cover a lot of ground swiftly and to acquaint writers with the richness and variety of techniques and forms of fiction available to them.

Listen to an excerpt from K. L. Cook's Forms of Fiction Lecture (4:32)

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Point of View
Point of view is arguably the most important aspect of craft for fiction that writers need to understand and master.  The author's choice of point of view shapes practically every other element of the narrative: plot, characterization, voice, language, tone, imagery, and theme.  In some respects, the choice is rather simple-first-person or third-person, possibly second-person.  And yet, the mishandling of point of view is a frequent and significant issue in the work of inexperienced fiction writers.  In this lecture, I will provide an overview and definition of the range of point of view options, discuss why consistency when employing point of view is so crucial, examine the role of narrative distance, and demonstrate, through brief examples, how point of view can be used to shape or alter meaning in a narrative.

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Let's Misbehave: Misbehavior as Narrative Strategy
In this lecture, I will argue that writers should think of misbehavior as a formal narrative strategy.  We'll consider misbehavior as a method for characterization, analyzing ways that we can create complex characters who act up, act out, and think and behave in inappropriate ways and upon whom we can visit trouble.  We'll also examine writers-such as Borges, Barthelme, and Calvino-who habitually misbehave in terms of form and structure, and who surprise us by subverting conventions and deconstructing our expectations about the "contract with the reader."

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Shakespeare for Fiction Writers
We know that Shakespeare serves as a model and inspiration for poets and playwrights, but what can short story writers, novelists, and nonfiction narrative writers learn from the Bard? In this seminar, we’ll ignore all the cultural and academic debates and instead examine Shakespeare with narrative thievery in mind. (Shakespeare was perhaps the greatest of all narrative thieves.) We’ll explore how he introduces and develops characters, constructs scenes, and integrates melodrama with psychological reflection. We’ll investigate how he uses secondary plots to inform, counterpoint, and even subvert his primary plots and characters. And we’ll poke into the way he transformed existing stories and plays. We’ll also look briefly at how fiction writers as diverse as Jane Smiley, Anthony Burgess, Hemingway, and Melville have successfully “borrowed” Shakespeare. No extensive familiarity with Shakespeare is required, though students should bring a copy of the collected works so that we can analyze scenes and soliloquies from several plays.

Listen to an excerpt from K. L. Cook's Shakespeare Lecture (4:46)

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